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How OSH awards can bolster your ESG credentials

How OSH awards can bolster your ESG credentials


This article looks at how safety and health awards, even just the process of applying for them, can help an organisation frame its safety and health work as part of its social responsibilities.

In a recent article, we looked at the growth of external reporting frameworks linked to environment, social and governance (ESG) management and external reporting, such as the Global Reporting initiative’s GRI 403 standard. Accreditation to these frameworks gives evidence of commitment to workplace safety and health to the agencies scanning companies’ sustainability credentials on behalf of investors and corporate customers a fundamental part of social responsibility – the S in ESG.

But there are other forms of evidence of the quality of safety systems that may also matter with these third-party assessors. An example is participation in safety and health awards programmes, which can offer added advantages, including being more easily appreciated by ESG stakeholders without an understanding of technical frameworks.

Martin Cook is Head of Health and Safety at Wales and West Utilities, which operates the gas distribution network and provides the gas emergency service across Wales and South West England. He says that though the company monitors tens of OSH indicators such as cable strikes and near misses, few of these are included in its annual public-facing stakeholder report.

“A lot of the time the public aren’t interested in that much detail,” he notes. In the firm’s latest annual stakeholder report, the OSH section begins: “We are once again proud to have been awarded our ninth consecutive RoSPA Gold Medal Health and Safety Award, an internationally recognised award for demonstrating industry leading health and safety performance and commitment.” (In the 12 months since, the number of Gold Awards has increased to 10, so the company also received the President’s Award in 2023).

The same approach is apparent in the ESG reporting at M Group Services, which provides infrastructure support to the water, energy, transport and telecoms sectors. The company has twice won RoSPA’s highest award, the Sir George Earle Trophy, and has won the Construction Sector Award eight out of the past 12 years. In the M Group Services 2022-23 ESG report, the section on safety and health devotes more than a page to the RoSPA Awards won by the group’s divisions in the previous 12 months, including multiple gold medals, three orders of distinction and two President’s awards.

Steve Hewings, Head of Health and Safety for one of the group’s divisions, Morrison Energy Services, says this list works as a shorthand for excellent OSH performance: “You don’t need to write any more around that, it speaks for itself; they are the biggest safety accolades.”

Chain of responsibility

Contractors in supply chains are increasingly being asked by larger customers to demonstrate their ESG credentials as a prerequisite of doing business; winning a safety and health award has a role here too.

“It acts as a lens for our clients, to give them the assurance we are managing things correctly,” says Steve Hewings, “and it actually gives our [OSH] team a lot of satisfaction that they have achieved the award.”

“We do put a lot of weight on that external validation of where we are at,” says Cook. Along with scrutiny by the Health and Safety Executive, the company is certified to ISO standards for OSH, environment and asset management and is audited by the energy supply chain assessors, Achilles Information. The RoSPA Awards wins add another layer to that validation for the company’s customers.

Does Wales and West take account of awards when prequalifying its own suppliers? “Yes, very much so,” says Cook. For smaller suppliers particularly, which might not have certified to ISO 45001, a RoSPA Award would be taken as evidence of good OSH standards. “If we weren’t looking for those awards, we would have to expend a lot of energy and cost because we have a fairly large supply chain.”

Something to celebrate

RoSPA Awards Standard Manager, Matt Cryer, says Hewings’ point about team satisfaction is worth highlighting, since the employees who help organisations win awards deserve recognition. Along with investors, customers and the public, they are also an ESG audience in themselves. “Celebrating with those who have contributed and fed into the success is an important aspect of the awards,” says Cryer. “That makes it distinct from other forms of accreditation, such as an ISO 45001 audit.”

Autumn Crum is Director, Global EHS, at US water supply technology multinational Xylem. The group, which operates in 150 countries, entered the RoSPA Awards for the first time in 2022 and won 14 awards, including eight Golds. She says the Gold Award winners sent representatives to the award ceremony in London but they also all had their own on-site celebrations, with catering arranged, “so the teams at the site could celebrate since it takes everyone to participate in the success. It’s really good for morale.”

External validation for employees’ efforts and of the culture of care L'Oréal fosters was one of the major motivations for the personal care group’s decision in 2018 to support its sites worldwide if they wanted to enter for the awards, says Thiago Ramos, Global Health and Safety Manager. “It’s beautiful to see when they post on LinkedIn that they are proud to work for a company that takes health and safety seriously.”

Ramos says an incidental benefit of the company’s multiple award wins, including the Sir George Earle trophy for its North Little Rock manufacturing site in Arkansas, USA, in 2023 raises the visibility of safety and health among other corporate functions.

Steve Hewings agrees: “It demonstrates visible commitment from the top, sets the tone and probably raises health and safety’s profile in the business.”

Socially minded

Workplace safety and health is the foundation of organisations’ social responsibilities in ESG; focusing on wider community work while failing to protect employees would be a failure to prioritise social impact. But RoSPA recognises that OSH is one block in the social pillar. “RoSPA’s mission and vision extends beyond workplace safety,” says Matt Cryer, “and we bring that into the awards by looking not just at what organisations are doing to keep their employees safe.” This is reflected in the society’s Health and Safety Beyond the Workplace Award.

“We like RoSPA because it is very focused on the public and we are very focused on the public,” adds Martin Cook. Wales and West Utilities has run a carbon monoxide awareness public awareness campaign in partnership with RoSPA, which also features prominently in its ESG reporting.

Entry benefits

If awards have a definite value as a marker of strong performance in the OSH component of ESG management, and one that can be a cause for celebration by the winners, OSH professionals say there is also a benefit that accrues from going through the application process.

Autumn Crum says safety is often viewed almost exclusively through its shortcomings, concentrating on learning from incidents. The awards application process “really got our teams focusing on what went well; the positives. It got them focusing on how to sell themselves. It also provides a benchmark of where we started and where we are going and an opportunity to see those improvements year over year as we go forward.”

Steve Hewings goes further:


“Going for the awards takes time, up to two weeks out of your day job, but it probably provides the best internal
audit you will ever have of your organisation.”


“We really want the awards to be a reflective exercise”, notes Matt Cryer at RoSPA. “With entrants reflecting on their successes over the previous year but using that to inspire and drive what they will do in the coming year as well.”

It’s unsurprising that given their positive views on the value of awards submissions and wins as part of ESG management and reporting, the professionals we talked to would advocate their peers’ other organisations going through the process. “I’d definitely recommend it,” says Martin Cook. “From a supplier’s perspective, but also to answer the question ‘How are we doing?’ - that external view is invaluable.

More information and support for entering the RoSPA Health & Safety Awards is available here.


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